Global demand for specialty silicas -- which include precipitated silica, silica gel, silica sol, and fumed silica -- is forecast to grow 5.0 percent per year through 2018 to 2.9 million metric tons, valued at $6.9 billion. This will represent an acceleration from the pace of the 2008-2013 period, as continued economic advances in developing countries such as China and India will bolster gains in demand for specialty silicas. Consumption of specialty silicas will also benefit from improved manufacturing levels in a stronger economic climate in the developed countries of North America and Europe. Increased use of silica in tire treads will further promote growth in specialty silicas demand in these regions. These and other trends are presented in World Specialty Silicas, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based market research firm.
Rubber is the largest market for specialty silicas and is also projected to be the fastest growing through 2018. Tire rubber represents the largest portion of the rubber market and the single largest application for specialty silicas worldwide. According to analyst Elliot Woo, “Rising adoption of green and high performance tire technologies -- which use precipitated silica in tire treads to improve properties such as rolling resistance and traction -- has led to increased use of specialty silicas in this market.” Several countries, including Japan, South Korea, and those in the EU, have introduced tire labeling regulations in recent years, incentivizing consumers to purchase higher-end fuel efficient tires. Similar regulations could be adopted in the near future in countries like Brazil and the US.
The Asia/Pacific region held the largest share of the global specialty silicas market in 2013 and is expected to post the fastest growth through 2018. This is primarily due to the performance of the sizable Chinese market, which will account for 58 percent of the regional total in 2018. In contrast, a below average performance is expected in Japan, reflecting the maturity of silica consuming industries in that country. Central and South America and the Africa/Mideast region will both post solid growth in demand for specialty silicas through 2018, driven by economic advances in developing countries. Eastern Europe will also see fast growth, bolstered by strong gains in export-oriented manufacturing industries. Market maturity will lead to below average growth in North America and Western Europe, although these regions will still see improvements relative to the 2008-2013 period, reflecting a stronger economic environment.